A Sounders team coming off a loss in terrible weather conditions last Saturday will likely revamp its attack up top by using Will Bruin at striker and Jordan Morris flanked out wide. It would be the first time the pair have started a game together this season.
Sounders forward Will Bruin admits he’d never quite played a professional game with field conditions as poor as what the team slogged through at Yankee Stadium last Saturday afternoon.
Well, scratch that. There was one game — which was promptly postponed.
“When I was in Houston, we played a game in Dallas and there was like this torrential downpour,” Bruin said Monday as the Sounders resumed training in Tukwila. “We played for about three minutes and the ball wouldn’t even roll, so they cancelled it. But to actually finish the game, that was pretty different.”
The ball wasn’t rolling much by the second half in New York on Saturday, either. But despite the poor soccer product on display as a result, play was allowed to continue. Re-scheduling a game between Houston and Dallas is likely cheaper and far easier to pull off than Major League Soccer having the Sounders to fly all the way back to New York at some point, not to mention the ESPN national telecast that would have been impacted.
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Needless to say, the game was a total writeoff for the Sounders in being able to glean anything productive about what occured during their 2-1 loss to New York City FC. That said, they’ll likely implement changes to begin Wednesday’s home contest against Orlando City FC: Staring with inserting Bruin up top at the striker’s position and flanking Jordan Morris out wide.
Bruin was a 50-goal scorer over six seasons in Houston before being relegated to coming off the bench for the Sounders with Morris at the striker spot. But Bruin has four goals already this season — twice as many as Morris in half the playing minutes — and giving the attack a different look appears paramount for a Sounders team that can’t take games for granted at this stage.
“I think it gives us two different looks, two different dynamics,” Bruin said. “When I come in, I’m more going to link play. When Jordan’s playing up there, he’s going to get in behind and cause mayhem. So, it’s good for teams to not really know what we’re going to do and keep them on their toes.”
Bruin is a gifted goal scorer with a knack for physically inserting himself into the right spot to put the ball in the back of the net. Morris uses more natural speed to outrace opponents to balls and has certainly enjoyed plenty of chances this season — though without finishing the vast majority of them.
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer wants to better work Bruin in to an attack that ranks in the league’s bottom half at just 19 goals scored. Considering six of those goals came in a pair of games against Los Angeles and the New York Red Bulls, it’s been slim pickings the remaining 14 contests.
Bruin said he and Morris have paired well the limited minutes they’ve been on the field together. He’d like to see them start a game off together for the first time and should get his chance at VenturyLink Field on Wednesday.
Schmetzer was non-committal about that, though he hinted strongly that Bruin will factor heavily.
The Sounders are 5-4-7 on the season, with just one win on the road. The team is looking to add some offensive firepower and a defender during next month’s transfer window to help fill some gaps missing the first 3 1/2 months thus far.
But ultimately, they’re unlikely to go very far unless key cogs Morris, Clint Dempsey and Nicolas Lodeiro find ways to generate more production between them. Morris and Dempsey missed two recent games due to U.S. Men’s National Team duty and the impact of their return on Saturday was impossible to gauge given the terrible weather conditions.
“I watched the film, the coaching staff, we watched the film but obviously I couldn’t really show them anything because you couldn’t really play,” Schmetzer said. “Some of the movement, the guy was over here but the pass stopped six yards short. There was no ability to dribble a ball at all. So, it was tough.”
Ultimately, it creates another of those “must win” home games veteran defender Brad Evans has previously stated is crucial to capitalize on for a team struggling to win on the road. Orlando will be missing striker Cycle Larin, arrested on a DUI charge last week and now under the MLS substance abuse protocol and ineligible to play until cleared by a league investigation.
But at 7-5-4, despite a minus-2 goal differential, Orlando is still one of those teams good enough to sneak up on any opponent that brings less than their best to the table.
“We’re at the point of the season where every game matters,” Schmetzer said. “We talked early on about motivating the team for a game in April, but we’re past that point. We’re 16 games in, halfway through. We’re past that point.”